Eoin Morgan describes the World Cup thumping by New Zealand four years ago as one of the worst days of his life.
Lose here and Morgan could be feeling just as low because the make up of the four semi-finalists will become a lot clearer by the end of this match.
Victory at the Riverside will ensure England go through to a semi-final, most likely against India at Edgbaston next Thursday.
Lose and their fate is in the hands of others; they will have to hope Pakistan are beaten by Bangladesh at Lord’s on Friday to sneak through to the last four.
History is against England. They have lost their last five World Cup matches to New Zealand, a run stretching back to 1983. The worst was the hammering in Wellington at the last World Cup where England lost a day-nighter so quickly the match was over before they needed to turn on the floodlights.
Bowled out for just 123 with Tim Southee taking the third best World Cup figures ever of 7-33, England were then smashed around by New Zealand’s captain Brendon McCullum. His 77 off 25 balls included the mauling of a shell-shocked Steve Finn, who conceded 49 from just two overs as England meekly rolled over and their World Cup campaign never recovered.
“It was as close to rock bottom as I’ve been. Certainly as a captain and as a player: being beaten off the park like that is humiliating,” said Morgan. “I didn't know what to feel because things were so bad but we still had games to play. It was weird. It was a terrible day, one of those moments in my career that will standout forever in my life as a day where I was devastated not only with the way we performed but also the way we carried ourselves.”
ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019
But the seeds of England’s one-day revolution were planted that day for Morgan saw the way New Zealand played their white-ball cricket and had a moment of epiphany. He resolved that if he kept his job as captain his team would play the same fearless cricket that won McCullum’s New Zealand side so many admirers.
“The way his New Zealand team played, the way they did it their own way was important. It's important for any team to get their own identity and stick with it,” said Morgan. “New Zealand proved a point that you can actually be really good humans and grow the game and play cricket in your own way and win, at the same time.”
The most recent memory of playing New Zealand in England has much more relevance than that World Cup defeat. It was at the Riverside in 2015 that England won the deciding game of an incredible series, with Jonny Bairstow man of the match. They have rarely looked back since.
But the surprising factor of England’s struggles in this tournament is that they diverted from their path and instead of being ultra confident they looked timid while losing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia.
The strut returned against India, but New Zealand are dangerous with Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson two of the best fast bowlers in this tournament, and Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor two of the most accomplished batsmen.
Williamson has the highest batting average of this World Cup, 113.40 after two centuries, while only Mitchell Starc has taken more wickets than Ferguson’s 17.
England are likely to pick the same team that won at Edgbaston with Jofra Archer recovered from a side strain and Jason Roy’s hamstring continuing to respond to treatment.
The pitch looks a good batting surface and the match here on Monday saw West Indies get within 23 runs of Sri Lanka’s 338.
The large playing surface could mean the spin of Moeen Ali comes back into contention but that would mean leaving out one of the local heroes Mark Wood or Liam Plunkett. Wood has struggled in his last two matches, and perhaps needs a breather, but his pace is a potent factor for any team. He will have around 50 family and friends here on Wednesday so home surroundings should help him forget any fatigue.
Plunkett plays for Surrey these days but is from Middlesbrough and started his long career at Durham. His changes of pace were effective in the middle overs against India and he has a knack of dismissing top batsmen so could be crucial against Williamson and Taylor as the New Zealand innings plays out.
New Zealand are hard to judge. They sailed through most of the group stage but lost when faced with top quality opposition and were bowled out for 157 by Australia at Lord’s on Saturday.
They will be tempted to pick Southee for the first time in this World Cup given his record against England and ability to swing the ball.
But this pitch looks suited to England, with the promise of plenty of runs on offer. There should be no excuses for not playing their way, or more accurately, the New Zealand way.
England: Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler, Woakes, Plunkett, Archer, Rashid, Wood.
New Zealand: Guptill, Nicholls, Williamson, Taylor, Latham, de Grandhomme, Neesham, Santner, Southee, Ferguson, Boult.
Umpires: S Ravi (India) Rod Tucker (Australia)